During a broken play in Sunday’s game between the Dolphins and the Texans, Miami quarterback Trent Green blocked Houston defensive lineman Travis Johnson with a helmet to Johnson’s knee. The collision between the two players was horrific, and Green suffered a grade 3 concussion. After the play ended, Johnson stood over a motionless Green, yelling and pointing his fingers. He was penalized for taunting but after the game he had harsh words about Green for the media.
Johnson later apologized for his tirade but the media’s response to the entire incident is typical in its shortsightedness. Johnson is being vilified for expressing anger over what was unquestionably a dirty play on Green’s part. ESPN analyst and former Bears’ coach Mike Ditka mocked Johnson for complaining about the block saying, “It’s football.”
It is football, coach, but it’s not a free-for-all, and there are certain boundaries that divide an upright play from a cheap play. Grabbing someone’s facemask, holding someone’s jersey or tripping an opposing player are illegal in football because they cause an unfair advantage. But none of these are nearly as dangerous as blocking a player below the waist.
These sorts of hits are cheap in nature and can cause injuries that taint seasons and ruin players’ careers. The NFL has not gone far enough in creating rules to rid games of these types of hits. Fans suffer when players are lost to injuries that could have been avoided. I challenge anyone to argue that blindsiding an opposing player with a helmet to the knee is anything but cheap.
I applaud Travis Johnson for having the courage to criticize Trent Green, even if the manner in which he did it was somewhat crude. As a 14-year NFL veteran and someone who suffered a season-ending knee injury in 1999, Green should know not to throw such a dangerous block. As someone who suffered a serious concussion last year, Green should have the common sense not to place his head in the path of a 315-pound defensive lineman’s leg.
Football is a man’s game, and if a player is not up to the challenge of throwing an upright block, he shouldn’t resort to trying to take out an opposing player’s legs. Regardless of the concussion he suffered, Green instigated the play that could have resulted in a serious injury to Johnson, and therefore he is the player who deserves the most blame.
In this situation, Green is akin to someone who inadvertently causes a car accident and gets hurt in the process. When the dust settles, you sympathize for the injured person and pray for their recovery, but at no point do you absolve them of blame or single out others involved in that accident for reacting angrily to a situation they did not cause. It’s easier to point the finger at the man at the podium than at the one in the hospital bed. By focusing on Johnson, the media has avoided talking about the critical issue. Why has the NFL not taken a stronger stance against low hits?
Kevin Craft may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.